The Typhoons RUFC
Back in 1995, five men met in the bar at Kings Cross Train Station to talk about their experiences of being gay men in rugby, and at the end of this talk, the foundations were set for the Kings Cross Steelers, the first of what was then called a gay rugby club. They were soon joined by two more clubs, and a movement was born. The nineties were a different time, and those early clubs can all tell stories of how homophobia caused problems, and other clubs made it difficult for them. A coach being removed from his previous club, refusals to rent equipment due to a fear of AIDS, and constant changes of training and playing venues. But, those pioneers persisted. In 2001, tragedy struck this embryonic movement, and in the September 11th Attacks, Mark Bingham, a player for San Francisco Fog died trying to retake Fight 93, and a small memorial tournament with the then 8 teams all attending took place the following year.
Fast forward to 2016, and there are close to 50 clubs in existence. The 8th Mark Bingham Memorial Cup (referred to now as “Bingham”) took place in Nashville, in searing heat and with Mark’s mother, Alice Hoagland, still watching every game. Some clubs still call themselves “Gay Clubs”, but the term “inclusive rugby”is becoming more popular, recognising that the clubs represent a different way of doing things, and providing a rugby home for people who might not feel comfortable in traditional clubs. The Melbourne Chargers won that year. However, this is where I enter the picture. I was at Bingham. I was between clubs at the time, playing as a pool player with a short sided club, and planning to hang up my boots after the tournament. A conversation took place about the bid cycle for the 2018 tournament, and I say “maybe we will have a central Lancashire club by then. We could host it in Blackpool. Have the opening ceremony on the North Pier, and the closing ceremony in the tower ballroom. We could call the team The Preston Pugs” and the idea was swiftly forgotten. This was 2016, however, and money was being poured into Rugby development, and new Inclusive teams springing up across the UK. Leeds Hunters, Swansea Vikings, Wessex Wyverns, Berkshire Unicorns (taking the name we all wish we had come up with!), and, with me on the club committee, The Liverpool Tritons.
The received wisdom at the time was still that clubs could only work in large cities, and even if the idea of a Preston or Blackpool club came up, the advice would always be “it could never work” Summer 2017 came along, and after Madrid Union Cup (when I came up with the idea with the chairman of The Newcastle Ravens for the Inclusive Clubs to have their own league structure), the idea came up to challenge the view that clubs couldn’t exist outside of large cities and found an Inclusive Club based out of Preston. October came along, and I found myself sat in the bar at ‘hoppers throwing around ideas for a name (and agreeing to play for ‘hoppers 5th team the next day!) and many suggestions came up – Brigands and Warlocks and Guildsmen (oh my!), and thankfully pugs was rejected! None felt right, but then a test flight for BAe went overhead, and the suggestion of “Typhoons” came up
Jump forwards to our very first training session, January 19th 2018. 68 people had said their were coming, and 5 turned up. It was cold, hailstones and damp. But we had fun. Next came April 14th and we played our first game, in gifted shirts and with only 13 of our own players (after I fell on my way to the game and busted my ankle!) and our numbers bolstered by some Liverpool Tritons. November that year, the decision was made to start an “all year round” touch team, and we grew further. The 2019/20 season saw us competing in the IGR (International Gay Rugby) North League, finishing firmly in the middle of the table in 4th place, and with some fantastic memories, and some incredible stories to tell. The Foreshortened season kept us from hosting the League finals and cup games on 25th April, and has cut the core of our Touch Team’s season, but this hasn’t stopped us planning for the future. The 20/21 season will soon be with us, with new IGR teams to play as more and more clubs are founded. Of course, we couldn’t do any of this without the fantastic support from all of the people at Preston Grasshoppers, and we look forward to being back with you as soon as possible.
Lawrence in action down at the Hoppers